The ‘Mockumentary’ genre is a very difficult type of film to get right, they often tend to be too realistic and lack entertainment value or they swerve too hard in the other direction and some off as trying too hard to be funny. I am personally not a fan of the genre and try to avoid these fake docs at all costs, but then along came 2014’s What We Do in the Shadows. Written, directed, and starring comedians Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, What We Do in the Shadows follows a group of vampires living in modern day Wellington, New Zealand and depicts how they live in a technologically advanced society.
Each character in the movie is a different age and based on a famous Hollywood vampire:
Petyr (Ben Fransham) – The 8,000-year-old vampire inspired by Nosferatu
Viago (Waititi) – 393 years old, similar to those found in Interview with a Vampire (1994)
Deacon – Played by Jonny Brugh and comparable to Bela Lugosi’s famous Dracula role
Vladislav aka ‘Vlad the Poker’ – Clement’s version of Gary Oldman’s Dracula
Nick – The most recent convert, played by Cori Gonzalez-Macuer and inspired by more modern vampires such as those from Blade
The documentary crew gives the audience a look into the everyday lives of these vampires and the struggles they deal with. Have you ever tried to getting ready to go out on the town without being able to look in a mirror? Vampires do it every weekend. What about getting violently ill from eating a single french fry, your favorite food, just because it’s something other than blood? That’s the silent struggle of the vampire. Well, that and the whole ‘dying if I go into the sunlight or touch a crucifix and also everyone I love died hundreds of years ago‘ thing. It’s a rough life.
What We Do in the Shadows is a movie that virtually anyone can enjoy. On the surface it’s littered with “stupid” humor, like turning someone’s genitals into a snake, that is both enjoyable and accessible, but also has a deeper layer of much smarter humor that completely transforms the film into something even better.
Almost as clever as the film itself are the stories from the production, including misplacing a fake corpse and subsequent press release telling people not to panic, or not sharing any of the 150 page with the cast or crew to keep character reactions genuine. The best of all might be hiring a man named Stuart Rutherford as the production’s IT consultant.
Rutherford was told he would be featured in a couple of small scenes, but ended up playing a major character without even knowing it. His character is often seen standing silently off to the side, because Rutherford didn’t realize he was on camera. The extent of his role wasn’t made apparent to him until the film’s premiere when he actually watched the movie.
The lightheartedness and clever antics behind-the-scenes translates into a light and hilarious movie featuring vastly different characters all united by their vampirism and subsequent struggle to fit into a modern day society. While What We Do in the Shadows did receive critical acclaim, it’s audience exposure is far too low for how much of a treat this film is. Do yourself a favor and go check it out.
Final Score: 8/10